My traveling buddy, Lynne, and I pulled in to home about 8:30 night before last. We were TIRED...and Lynne was SICK. She's on antibiotics and on the mend.
What can I say? Australia was everything I expected and much more. We had the perfect Delegation Manager - Tim - who was with us the entire trip. He is a native Aussie and he knows and loves his country PLUS he was excited to share it with us. We all adored him.
I think the best way to share the trip is through some of my favorite photos....I'm also working on blogging it at http://p2ptravelers-australia.blogspot.com. I wrote a little while we were traveling, but now I'm going back and adding more text and photos. But for this blog, I'll just share some of the highlights:
Here is our group before we went through security at SFO...do we look happy or what?
At Telstra Stadium, the site of many of the 2000 Olympics, we divided into 2 groups for a tour. Here's my half - they played the sounds of 110,000 people screaming and clapping as we entered the stadium.
I can't remember the story Tim told us, but this is the 'Fat Ass Wombat' on this pole. Wombats are animals of Australia...and this one sits on top of one of the many poles outside Telstra Stadium which commemorates the many volunteers who helped with the 2000 Olympics.
Lynne and I swam in the Olympic Pool at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Center. Notice we are in the medium fast lane? That might be the truth for Lynne...but I truly don't belong in any sort of fast lane!
Every time we changed hotels, we changed rooming lists. Here's what they looked like.
On the second morning, we took a group shot at Mrs. Macquire's chair. Then we walked along the water and took lots of photos with the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge in the background. This is Lynne, Dustin, and I....GO TEAM!
The skyline of Sydney, Australia!
The Kookaburra! These birds are the world's largest kingfishers and are known for their loud, manic laughing call. It sounds more like a baby crying to me. These birds are awesome and you saw them everywhere.
On our way to Canberra, we stopped at a little village called Berrima. Lynne, Dustin, and I each had a cappucino and a scone...Yum...
Here we are at the AIS - Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. This is where athletes come to train. Our guide told us there is only ONE mindset - You ARE training to be a professional...and there is no plan B.
We had an absolutely wonderful group of delegates...here are 5 of our 23 girls: Stephanie, Ginalisa, Mandie, Christine, and Margot.
And two of our 9 guys: Alex and Samir
In Canberra, this is looking out from the Australian War Museum towards Parliament House.
In the War Museum, there are walls like this with the names of the fallen in the various wars Australia has fought in.
Before heading back to the Sydney airport to fly to Darwin, we went to the Gold Creek Sheep Station. Clancy, a kelpie, rounded up all those sheep and guided them to a pen that was probably at least 150 yards away. It was amazing to watch. A few of the sheep lunged at him when he would bark right in their faces.
All of us who wanted to, got to hold one of the sheep, well, I guess I should more accurately say - we got to hold the sheep up. He was SO relaxed...so limp! When it was time to let the sheep out of the pen, they would start jumping as they came through the chute. Watch this:
And then there are the crocodiles...lots of crocodiles...more crocodiles than I thought I would ever see. This one, I think, was in Crocodylus Park in Darwin. Darwin is in the Northern Territory.
We had a romance that started and bloomed on our journey through Australia. This is Sara anad Robbie. What I thought made it even more special for Robbie, is he has dual citizenship with Australia and the USA. So to meet his new girlfriend in his "mother country" I would think would be pretty special.
Yep, that's a live crocodile I'm holding. I'm not really very brave...it's a baby and if you look closely, you can see his snout is taped. But still, I HELD A LIVE CROCODILE!
And in case you can't read...here's another crocodile sign!
OK, I knew this, but these signs were everywhere.
We took a cruise on the East Alligator River which is Kakadu National Park. This place was awesome! Of course, there are NO alligators in this river, but there are LOTS of crocodiles. Again, a sign warning of the dangers!
Here we are on the cruise. We were warned not to even put our elbows on the railing...crocodiles can JUMP when they see food.
This is Arnhem Land. It is aboriginal land that is closed. People to People get permits to take our students inside. Arnhem land is basically a country within a country and it's stunningly beautiful. We had an aboriginal man talk and show us about their spears, about some of their customs and male/female roles, about hunting...so much he had to share with us.
Judy and Lynne in Arnhem Land.
Ubirr Rock is also in Kakadu National Park. We went there and saw a lot of ancient rock paintings done by the aboriginals. It is said that Ubirr has some of the finest Aboriginal rock sites in the Northern Territory. Many of them are painted in X-ray style of the areas wildlife. The rock paintings date from 20,000 years ago. In this sign, you see a photograph covered. In their customs, when a man dies, his name is not spoken and his picture is not shown.
We hiked up to the top of Ubirr rock to watch the sunset. This photo is of Tim, Dustin, Lynne, and myself. I felt like we were on top of the world in the top end of Australia!
In Kakadu National Park, we took plane rides - small plane rides - like 7 people in a plane small! Wow!, Wow, and Wow again. It was extraordinary. This is the Alligator River (full of crocodiles) from the air.
Here was my flying group: The pilot, Paul, Caitlin, Lauren, Me, Peter, Chad, and Sarah.
After our flights, we went to Nourlangie Rock. This site includes paintings of Namaragan, or Lightning Man.
We spent one entire day at Manyallaluk, an aboriginal community near the town of Katherine. This day, we learned basket making, more about spear throwing (and we each got to TRY to throw a spear), painting using their traditional methods, a bushwalk learning about the various plants and how they use them...and for lunch - kangaroo tail. Anyone who knows me well KNOWS I did NOT eat it...but those people would be mistaken this time. Yep, I ate some. It was difficult since I had seen the tail before it was cut, with the fur still on. But, when in aboriginal lands, do as the aboriginals do. (I think that saying is stolen from the Romans!)
Here's Lynne and Wayne, one of our aboriginal guides, with one of his paintings and the turtle is Lynne's.
This is Wayne who took us on the bushwalk. He talked to us about the different plants and how they use them. For example, on this tree, you can take a bunch of leaves with green ants, crush them in your hand, and then sniffing the fumes (?) is excellent for colds, coughs, etc.
Here I am with Dewayne, an adorable aboriginal child who loved for us to hold him.
This is Chad learning to throw a spear.
Wayne painted some of our faces. The aborigines paint their bodies when they are having celebrations/dances.
Two of the delegations 'fearless leaders' with our faces painted.
My iPod was broken for awhile (until Chad fixed it...thank you again, Chad!) so here my traveling buddy, Lynne, is sharing her music (The Waifs) with me as we ride on the 'coach'.
Well, what you can't see is the the two BEAUTIFUL waterfalls behind us. This was a place called Wangi Falls. Now, what you also can't see is the sign saying there MIGHT BE CROCODILES in this water. (That would be freshwater crocodiles -'freshies' as the Aussies call them - which don't eat people!)
These are giant magnetic termite mounds. It looked like a field of gravestones. They're called magnetic because they point north in an effort by the termites to control the temperature by having only the thinnest part of the mound exposed to the sun.
These are also giant termite mounds, but not magnetic. You see these everywhere...this area had the largest ones we saw.
How cute is this? This is a baby wallaby that was bundled up outside a digeridoo store where we were shopping. Apparently, this baby's mom had been killed. It was eating a pear!
When we first arrived in Cairns, we went on a walk by a botantical garden. There was a huge pond full of water lilies and frogs. Looks like a painting to me!
I think this is called an elephant leaf? It was enormous.
In Cairns, we had our 'homestays.' Homestays are what People to People is built around. The main idea President Eisenhower had was that if people of other countries get to know each other, then we wouldn't want to war with other countries, but have peace.
This was my home stay family, the Parsell's....Ray, Maddison, and Narelle. In sharing our stories once our delegation was back together, I think I had the best family! If they lived here, I know Narelle and I would be great friends. This photo was taken at an area that looked over the town of Port Douglas which is about 45 minutes north of Cairns.
This is looking down on the beach at Port Douglas.
This is the beach at "Pebbly Beach." Pebbly Beach has some aboriginal lore attached to it. It is said that if you take a pebble from this beach, you'll have bad luck. Narelle told me that a lot of people MAIL BACK A PEBBLE they took because of the bad luck they begin to have. I was tempted, but DID NOT take a pebble!
Remember, it was winter for Australia. However, in their summer, there are jellyfish - stingers - in the waters. Their sting is very painful...so most people who get in the water wear these thin lycra suits...but then I wonder - what about their faces and hands? They're not covered by those suits. There are also signs to use vinegar - to pour it on but not to rub - when you get stung.
Narelle and I enjoyed this delicious bottle of wine together. We had come home from sightseeing and she made trays of different cheeses, crackers...and this wine. We sat out on her back porch and totally enjoyed the time. Like I said, if she lived here, we'd be great friends.
This is Maddison with TJ and Lucy.
Here I am with Maddison and Narelle.
This is in Kuranda, which is near Cairns. This was a typical scene when we would stop. The delegates would line up at a phone booth to call home. There was definitely a shortage of phones for our group. This is Garrett, Alex, Mandie, and Kyle.
This birthday crown got passed around. Looks like it must be Chad's turn to wear it.
Aborigines in Kuranda who showed us how to throw a boomerang, throw a spear, and play a digeridoo.
This guy was THE BEST! A lot of us were amazed with him.
In Kuranda, we saw a cacao tree. These are the pods!
We also fed kangaroos and wallabies...Here Lynne is having a grand time!
I LOVE this picture. These Koalas are SO cute! Here he is eating a eucalyptus leaf.
We took a journey on an Army Duck. Now these were built in WWII by women. They go on land and on water.
Cassowarys are huge and they can be mean. We saw them a couple of times but were always told to stay away!
Christine, Margot, Stacy, Stephanie, and Shelby at dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Kuranda. ABH stands for Australian Boomerang High School...which was our itinerary.
I love this picture of Amber, Ginalisa, Kyle, and Emily.
While we ate in Kuranda, a couple of guys played music. After eating, the dancing started. There was another P2P high school delegation there which made it more fun for the delegates.
This is our last day in Australia. We were heading to Fitroy Island for a day of snorkeling and kayaking on the Great Barrier Reef. This is Chad and I on 'round 2.' Chad traveled with me last year on the Heart of the Mediterranean itinerary.
This is the beach at Fitzroy Island. It was all dead coral. Lynne's home stay mom had told her to squat down and listen when the waves would go out. We did...and it made this wonderful tinkling sound as the water washed off the coral.
Here's Lynne and I sitting on the beach at Fitzroy Island.
Fitzroy Island...it's gorgeous!
Since this was our last night in Australia...and we were going to one of the nicest restaurants for our itinerary, this was the 'formal night.' What I thought was an 'unfortunate situation' was that we would have to dress for this on the island - with no hot showers, and no way for the girls to use their blow dryers, hair straighteners - no big mirrors for putting on their makeup...etc. When they first heard the conditions, they seemed pretty disappointed too. Well, we were all wrong. I think everyone had a grand time getting ready on the island. The girls were putting make up on each other...and the girls all wanted to fix the boys' hair. Some of our guys were literally chased down by the girls with mousse in their hands. Here is Brittany and Andrea after fixing Dustin's hair.
Our 23 girls and 2 of their fearless leaders.
Our 9 guys and 1 fearless leader. I just realized Tim isn't in this photo! He was Leader Extraordinaire!
At the restaurant on the last night, I told the delegates - which I'm sure they already had figured out - how fortunate we all were to have had Tim as our delegation manager. He was incredible - both in his attitude toward all of us in general and in his knowledge and love of his country. We couldn't have had anyone better. Lynne, Dustin, and I had put together a small photo album from some photos we had taken on the trip...plus most of the delegates had gifts and cards for Tim. He was SO touched by it all. He told me later how he had never had that before. He said he had had cards - but usually it was just something like 'thank you' but that our group had written...really written...and thanked him. It was a perfect ending to our journey.
After our wonderful travels through Australia, we loved seeing this beautiful sunrise from the plane as we neared the Los Angeles airport. Travel is so much fun...but it's always so nice to come home.